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By Gerardo R. Partido

SAIPAN, CNMI (Marianas Variety, Aug. 29) – Guam Governor Felix Camacho has joined 51 of the nation’s governors in opposing legislation that authorizes President Bush to take control of the National Guard.

According to the governor’s office, the House legislation was drafted without consultation or input from governors who serve as the traditional authority over state and territorial-controlled servicemen and women.

The National Defense Authorization Act gives President Bush the authority to take control of the National Guard in cases of serious natural or man-made disasters, accidents or catastrophes that occur in the United States, its territories, possessions, and Puerto Rico.

In a letter sent to the House and the U.S. Senate, Camacho said he is taking seriously his constitutional duty to protect the citizens of the island by leading the Guam National Guard.

"The current process by which governors use our National Guard in emergencies and request federal assistance when necessary works well and should not be changed," Camacho said.

Governors throughout the National Governor’s Association have already joined together in opposing the legislation, which was recently passed by the House of Representatives.

In a position paper, the National Governor’s Association stressed that governors are responsible for the safety and welfare of their citizens and are in the best position to coordinate all resources to prepare for, respond to, and recover from disasters.

The association has urged U.S. lawmakers to drop provisions that would usurp governors’ authority over the National Guard during emergencies from the conference agreement on the National Defense Authorization Act.

NGA agrees, however, that following the tragedies inflicted on the citizens of the U.S. gulf coast by hurricanes Katrina and Rita, local, state, and federal government must examine the way the three levels of government communicate and coordinate their response.

This is especially pertinent to Guam, which is frequently hit by typhoons.

[PIR editor’s note: According to Wikipedia Online as of early this year there are a total of 440,000 personnel enlisted in the National Guard. About half of the frontline fighting forces in Iraq (43 percent) and Afghanistan(55 percent) are National Guard members.]

August 30, 2006

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